I believe people have a fundamental need to feel equal. It is how we justify our struggles throughout our lives, it is what keeps us going.
In Western culture we achieve this rationale through Christianity and the belief in an afterlife based on rewarding or punishing individuals based on their moral character and actions. In the United States especially, with our capitalist economic system, there is a large gap between the wealthy and the poor who coexist in the same community.
Christianity is such an integral part of our society because of its message of an open and eternal paradise to all who faithfully subscribe to it. Without this there would be no motivation for those in poverty not to rebel against the upper class and take what they need by force. I believe religion serves as a pacifier when applied to a society whose members otherwise feel unequal.
Compare this method of thinking to that of Communist Russia where “Marxism has atheism as a presupposition, its primary concern is man” (Scribners). Was religion really dismissed due to a more enlightened and humanist people, or was it dismissed simply because they had had achieved their equality elsewhere?
Russia hadn’t been traditionally atheist, it became Christian in the year 988, but after the 1917 revolution and the spread of Marxism-Leninism, religion began to be dismissed (Schultze). People no longer had the need to contribute their time and energy to a belief system that promised an equal afterlife when they already had this balance in their present lives.
It all comes down to individual’s perceived economic status and sense of wellbeing. And if you look at things simply, there isn’t even much of a difference between the two systems of belief. Each provides it’s people comfort through a uniting sense of equality, It really just depends on whether you’re willing to wait for it, or you want it now.